The purpose of this guide is to provide you with basic instructions on how to play 1v1, specifically ladder. It's implied that you have already read the Beginner's Guide to Forged Alliance, the Three Essential Habits for the New Player, and the Unit Micro guides and have a general understanding of the basic game mechanics and terms.
You should start by building a land factory and following up with one of the basic build orders shown in the Beginner's Guide to Forged Alliance. Depending on the size of the map you spawned on, the queue of your first factory might vary greatly. If it is a 5x5 you will need some early engineers and units, but later on your first factory can mostly build tanks (assuming you can keep your engineers alive). On 10x10 maps you will require some more early engineers along with a few units, but later on the factory can just build engineers. On 20x20 maps your first factory can make only engineers, leaving the combat units for factories built later. Your first engineers should build the mexes in your base that your ACU will not, begin building a hydro if one is available, reclaim any large rocks/wrecks near your base, and begin expanding to mexes outside of your base. Expanding engineers are vulnerable to your opponent's units so they should have an escort. A single tank escorting an engineer should be enough early on, but do not forget to bring along a scout for extra vision and radar.
The very early portion of your build is now complete. You have completed your 2nd factory, and have one or two engineers expanding with escorts. What now? Depending on your build and on the map you may have some mass still stored up. Look at your ecobar and see how much mass you have remaining. If you have more than 100 mass stored up and are not losing mass rapidly, feel free to build an additional pgen and a land factory or if you chose to go for 2 land factories, 2-4 more pgens and an air factory.
So now your ecobar should be mostly out of mass, whether after your early build or after constructing some extra structures. Your ACU should leave your base now. There is no more mass to spend until your expanding engineers build more mexes or reclaim. But where should it go? Often there is a cluster of mexes somewhat close to your spawn, your ACU is perfect for securing that. Remember your ACU is about as strong as 20 tanks! Make sure when you leave your base that you will have some engineers ready in your base by the time you get mass, in a pinch you can build a factory with your ACU while it's on the way to the expansion, but you would rather not.
After a while you will get some mass from your newly built mexes, and you will have a couple engineers in your base waiting to use it. The best thing to spend your newly gained mass on at this point would be extra land factories. Be aware, as you spend more and more mass, you will need more and more energy. You should be generally okay if you build 1 pgen for every land factory you build from this point on. For each air factory you will need 4 adjacent pgens. You should also begin building a row of pgens at the back of your base with 1 or 2 engineers, these will satisfy your new engineers building things, various upgrades, etc. Sooner or later you will be spending more mass than you are gaining, at that point you will need to manage your economy. You can either pause or cancel projects, depending on your preference. The first thing to pause would be the engineers building pgens (assuming you aren't stalling power). If you are still stalling mass after pausing pgen production, pause engineers building factories and if you are still stalling a lot of mass, pause some of the factories. You can unpause them once you get more mass.
You should find some use for the units you build, don't let them just sit somewhere doing nothing. Either send them to raid your opponent or protect your expansions. Once you start accumulating more units you can do more daring raids to your opponent's expansions, try not to waste the units though. Or if your opponent is raiding you, send your units to defend your expansions. Some PDs are okay at defence, but you shouldn't build too many of them, 1 or 2 on an expansion should be more than enough if you also send your units. Consider PD more of a support unit rather than your primary defense force. You can also take your ACU on the frontlines, its power as a combat unit should be used, but be careful. Keep your army close to it and if you are clearly winning, consider sending it back to your base so you don't accidentally get killed and lose the game.
If T1 land and air alone won't win you the game or you wish to gain a tech advantage or just build higher tier mexes, see below in “teching” for some advice on when it is okay to tech.
If you wish to be aggressive very early on, you can make some LABs. If you use LABs, make them somewhere in your first 5 units. They are considerably worse than tanks so they can mainly kill engineers without an escort. Consider pairing them with scouts to find engineers more easily.
Half of the map belongs to you, the other half to your opponent. Not taking your own half is a sure way to lose the game. Your ACU can expand after your early build order to 1 or 2 expansions, depending on the map, and your escorted engineers will take the rest. However, your opponent will try to deny these expansions on your side of the map by raiding them and you should do the same. While your ACU is expanding, your units should be either defending your expansions or raiding your opponent's. Once your ACU is done expanding you can send it to attack your opponent (along with a land army of course).
It can be quite difficult to gain control of mexes that are on your opponent's side of the map, thus, it is often enough to just deny them from your opponent (raiding). If you can keep your expansions intact and raid some of your opponent's expansions, you will be in a good position to win the game. Sometimes people might sacrifice map control for higher tech or a snipe. If you are able to scout well, you can avoid these nasty surprises (more on that below).
<File:Loki> type 1.png|300px|The red line roughly shows how the map will be divided between the players, depending on how they decide to play it. Yellow arrows show ACU expansion(s). Black arrows show ACU attack routes. <File:Loki> type 2.png|300px|ACU movement can have a big impact on how the map will be divided.
Reclaim can be seen when holding down ctrl and shift. Reclaim gives you a brief mass boost. Two types of reclaim exist. The type that is there when you spawn, and that which is created as you fight (wrecks). Natural reclaim consists usually of a few big rocks and from a large amount of small rocks spread around. Sometimes there are some wrecks near the middle of the map. You can boost your early mass (you are able to build more in your base before you leave) with reclaim that is close to your base.
You can either reclaim manually (best saved for high-mass things), or with an attack move or patrol. Engineers with an attack move stop reclaiming if your storage gets too full but they will also become idle once the reclaim runs out. Patrolling engineers don't lose the order if your storage gets too full but they never stop patrolling.
Destroyed armies leave a lot of reclaim. It is in your best interests to reclaim as much of the wrecks as possible, especially if they are T2 or T3 wrecks. Any nearby engineers should head for the reclaim field and begin reclaiming it. If there is a lot of reclaim, you can build a factory near it and use it to build engineers that will use the factory attack move for extra range.
Wrecks that are in water lose far more of their original mass value compared to if the unit died on land.
Trees give a miniscule amount of mass and some power. You should concentrate on rocks and wrecks first and once they run out, you can start reclaiming trees.
When should you tech and what should you tech? Generally it's a good idea to do some teching if you don't lose anything while getting it. For example, you start building a T2 mex, but you start stalling and get less units. Now your opponent can raid your expansion of 3 or 4 T1 mexes. You get your T2 mex but you actually have less mass income than before. Same applies to T2 factories. One of your factories goes T2 (can't produce units while upgrading) and you also get less units because you stall. Your opponent can again raid your expansion. A temporary loss of an expansion is already quite bad but if you can't get it back, you can enter a downward spiral that you might never be able to recover from.
You might have noticed that teching usually causes stalling. It is often a good idea to tech when you have a fair bit of mass stored up, be it from reclaim or from poor eco management. Avoid teching in the first minutes of the game though. If you tech too early, your opponent might be able to overrun you with T1 units.
Scouts and radar will be providing all of your intel. Land scouts in your armies allow you to get more vision on the area you are moving to. This gives you some extra time to retreat from a larger army or from a PD before you take significant losses.
Air scouts allow you to see your opponent's base and expansions. This allows you to see his defences and tech without having to get too close with your armies. After the scout has completed it's initial scouting run, you can have it patrol somewhere so you get a bit more intel. It is important to react to what you see. Do you see a raid coming? Move units to defend. Is your opponent getting T2 land or navy? Get your own if you can't prevent him from getting it. Is he ecoing a lot? See if you can't raid one of his expansions.
Radar lets you see the immediate area around your expansions (and base). A T1 radar will give you some warning of enemy raids but it is not too useful in helping you raid. You can build radars on harder to reach places (plateaus, closed off areas) or you can build them close to your advancing armies. These will allow you to see more and aid you in raiding but they are vulnerable to bombers, and the forward radars will likely be lost once you retreat. You can later get T2 and T3 radars, which allow you to see further, but also cost more power to run.
Most naval maps are 20x20 and require a transport rush (see this video). Usually there are multiple islands/land masses that must be dropped to get the mexes in a timely manner. After or during your expansion with transport(s), you will build some naval factories. Early frigates can raid your opponent's mexes that are on the very edge of his island(s) and raid his engineers building naval factories if he gets them up too late. Once you have a bit of T1 navy and your expansions are secure, you should get T2 navy. Destroyers are able to shell your opponent's navy from afar and they can also kill mexes that your frigates can't reach. Often the player who has the most destroyers will win the naval game. This requires a good economy (you need to make some T2 mexes sooner or later) and ample build power on your T2 naval factory (engineers). You must not forget frigates though. A destroyer requires an escort of frigates. The destroyers main power comes from its range. If many enemy frigates get close, it will die quickly. A mix of destroyers and frigates is needed. Torpedo bombers can be used to kill destroyers, allowing you to swing the game in your favour.
UEF players should build some shield boats once they get T2 navy, it will increase the survivability of your destroyers. They should also consider getting T3 navy and battlecruisers once they have enough mass income and time to upgrade the factory.
A note on submarines. While they are ok against frigates, they are bad at raiding shore mexes (bad deck gun, have to surface), and have very low damage, which can allow your opponent to wreak havoc on your naval yards with a frigate before your subs can kill it. All destroyers also have torpedoes that will quickly deal even with large submarine groups (UEF has the torpedo boat for this purpose).
Get T3 sonar once you can build T2 pgens. With seraphim you have to build T2 sonars around the map.